SciSun: One Fish, Two Fish, Three Fish More   Leave a comment

Of all the fish in the sea, today more than one thousand species are officially listed as Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern. That’s a lot of fish, but things are starting to look up for at least for one little fellow: The Oregon Chub (Oregonichthys crameri) is scheduled to be the first fish ever removed from the Endangered Species list. Ever, that is, if you count only the fish that have recovered to healthy populations, and not the fish that were removed because they became extinct. So the little Chub (please don’t call him ‘chubby’. That’s rude), has a lot to be happy about, and today stands (or swims) as an inspiration that other species can also overcome the challenges of today’s world. That’s a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a minnow only about three inches long. Even more so, as fish don’t even have shoulders.

In the 1990’s, when anyone first recognized the Chub was in trouble, there were estimated to be a total population of about 1000 individual fish living in eight small streams, ponds and marshes in the Willamette River Valley of western Oregon. Due to agricultural development; introduction of exotic species; re-routing of water from marshlands; and general human activity, much of the fresh-water environments of beaver ponds; oxbows (areas of a river that curve back on itself, making wide, slow-moving channels); backwater sloughs (not-quite-a-river – not-quite-a-swamp); shallow tributaries; and flooded marshes disappeared, along with the little minnow – and the complex ecological web that the fish is an important part of maintaining. Of course to people, much of the Chubs’ natural home looks like nothing more than muddy, silty, dirty water that ‘no one’ would want. But, in that water that doesn’t seem safe to drink (and actually, probably isn’t safe for humans – don’t try it!) is the very basic foundation that much of a healthy natural environment depends.

Typical home of the Oregon Chub.   Also a great filming location for the new sifi project 'The Alligator that ate Allegheny'.

Typical home of the Oregon Chub. Also a great filming location for the new sifi project ‘The Alligator that ate Allegheny’.


Thankfully, a group of concerned researchers, residents, and local and state governments took action by forming the ‘Oregon Chub Working Group’ – an organization devoted to “successful introduction of Oregon chub into new locations within their historical range and the discovery of new, previously undocumented populations.” (Despite ‘Oregon Chub Working Group’ being a great name for a band, as far as we know, they are focused only on the fish and not on making tunes). Within the past two decades, through education; outreach; working with land owners and government agencies; physically removing predators and relocating Chub; the population of this little fish has grown to more than 150,000 individuals at 80 locations. While not yet at what was believed to be historic populations – the number of fish in an area before modern civilization – it’s indication the little minnow is doing well and on the way to full recovery.

Of course everyone involved in the life of this little fish – from scientists; to the government; to landowners whodidn’t even know their farm pond would make the ideal home for chub; to the Oregon Chub Working Group (that really is a great name for a band); can’t sit back and rest just because the fish is out of danger for now. As humans use more and more resources, the Oregon Chub – and the thousands of other plants, animals, and other species currently threatened or endangered – all need our care. Just as local citizens- from children to homeowners to those responsible for thousands of acres of land – stepped up to save this species, every day each one of us can make a difference with our actions and choices. So one day we won’t be counting the species that are in trouble – but rather, the species that we’ve saved.


Michonne Says: I don’t think much about fish. They live in the water and I think raccoons are interested in them. But raccoons are interested in just about anything. Really, they’re always looking for trouble. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Posted February 9, 2014 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SunSpecial

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